ABP Food Group say that the safety and wellbeing of staff at their processing plants “is paramount” after approximately 80 workers walked out at their facility in Lurgan earlier today.
The Unite union were informed of the walkout at ABP Meats in Lurgan today where around 80 employees, deemed ‘essential’ in light of current restrictions refused to work over fears for their safety.
According to Unite’s Regional Coordinating Officer Susan Fitzgerald, the workers in question demanded adequate social distancing of two metres be facilitated and enforced, as well as a number of other measures.
These included having deep-cleans conducted on work stations where other workers have self-isolated with coronavirus symptoms.
In a statement released to LouthNow.ie, a spokesperson for ABP Group, which is headquartered in Ardee, said that measures had been introduced in recent weeks to help stem the tide of Covid-19. ‘The safety and wellbeing of colleagues is paramount and the company has introduced a variety of additional measures at all sites in recent weeks in response to Covid-19,’ the statement read.
‘These measures include protocols around essential visitors, temperature checking, additional sanitising stations, staggered breaks, additional canteen spaces and many other robust protocols that are in place in food manufacturing facilities. The company is taking guidance from the relevant public health authorities and is continually reviewing the situation and taking additional steps where necessary.’
Fitzgerald said that that lack of clear government enforcement was in an issue. Based in Armagh, ABP’s Lurgan plant follows guidelines issued by the British government.
“What is happening here is entirely foreseeable. In the context of a pandemic, where workers are feeling unsafe at work there needs to be clear government enforcement of Public Health Agency Coronavirus guidelines to ensure their safety,” she said. “In particular there can be no institution of a two-tier health and safety regime of protective measures for workers in the food sector.
“Government inaction is going to cost lives. There must be a full lock-down of non-essential companies and where workers are deemed essential every possible measure should be taken and enforced to protect them – or else they shouldn’t be there”, Fitzgerald added.
While ABP’s Head Office is based in Ardee, they have plants in Lurgan, Newry, Clones, Limerickm Bandon and Nenagh. The company is the biggest beef processor in Europe while it is also a big recycler of vegetable oil and is Europe’s largest supplier of own-label pet food. ABP has operations in nine countries, with a reported annual turnover of €3 billion.